I was 18-years-old when The Dark Knight descended upon theaters. About to head off to college, I was secretly insecure, outwardly jittery and completely arrogant: the standard paradoxical combination following puberty. My friends and I went to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight since that was pretty much all we could (legally) do at midnight those days, and we left the theater a couple of hours before dawn stunned and speechless. It’s rare—especially for a teenage boy growing up in rusting Northeast PA—to leave a movie and really feel like he's witnessed something great, something important. But that was how I felt—and how my friends felt, too—when we walked out of that movie. It wasn’t just Heath Ledger’s eerie, haunting portrayal of the Joker. No, it was also Aaron Eckhart’s tragic mythological fall from grace as Harvey Dent, Christopher Nolan’s complex, edge-of-your-seat direction (a feat that seemed to convey the cultural rot endemic in modern America) and even Christian Bale’s sometimes unintentionally funny Batman voice that moved us. Ultimately though, it was the film’s message that sometimes bad men are simply bad for no reason whatsoever that disturbed 18-year-old me.
When Alfred explains the Joker’s motives—lunatic frenzy without rhyme or reason—to a baffled Bruce Wayne, saying that “some men just want to watch the world burn,” it was a learning point for me, too. Too quick to add reasonable explanation to the actions of irrational men, I realized after watching that not all villainy finds its roots in greed or revenge or jealousy. Sometimes people are mean just, well, because. I’d never seen a film, and still haven't seen another one, express that point more clearly or in a more entertaining way. Five years later, The Dark Knight remains the gold standard and not just for big-budget superhero movies but also for the modern American parable.
Right before I turned on the Eagles-Cardinals game a few days ago, I was watching The Dark Knight again. After the movie, I watched Nick Foles go yet another game without throwing an interception—he’s now one touchdown shy of tying Peyton Manning’s record-holding 20 touchdowns to start a season without a pick—and that opportunistic, and still notably porous, Eagles defense grind out another win. Throughout the game, I was reminded of a line that the grotesquely human Harvey Dent says in the film: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
(Really, is there a better tragic character in the past five years of cinema than Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight? He doesn’t just become a villain; he becomes a literal disfigured monster. And what’s worse, he never really becomes deranged. He simply, like the Joker, no longer finds any purpose to life anymore. He becomes an even larger villain than the Joker, perhaps, because Dent, at his core, knows better.)
Nick Foles should take heed to Harvey Dent's words, for he may one day become the villain here in Philadelphia (and that’s not all his fault). Philly is a rough town, after all. We never appreciated McNabb. We booed Santa. And, we even just threw down at our city's Christmas tree lighting ceremony. With a 19-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 125.2 quarterback rating, Foles already has Eagles fans thinking ‘Super Bowl or bust’ soon. And that type of absolutist all or nothing thinking is a shame, mostly because this season in itself has been a miracle. (That a team allowing 412.2 yards-per-game to opposing offenses, while having also committed a whopping 91 defensive penalties, should remain in the thick of the playoff-race is a miracle—perhaps not quite a miracle of Batman-saves-Gotham proportions, but it’s still a big deal.) So, when the Eagles don’t win the Super Bowl this year or next year, and questions inevitably begin to arise about Foles ability to "get it done," Harvey Dent might just have the last laugh after all. Indeed, what might wind up as the biggest tragedy of the Nick Foles story in a few years is that fans came to expect constant heroics, and if and when Foles fails to provide these superhuman feats, he too, like others before him, will go from hero to villain.
Along with Foles preternatural talent, credit goes to first-year coach Chip Kelly, who demonstrated in last week’s win over the Cardinals exactly why he’s got such a bright future in the NFL. Knowing that the Cardinals possess a talented secondary and run-stuffing linebacking corps, Kelly utilized his tight ends the most he's had all season. The results were impressive, particularly with promising rookie Zach Ertz catching two touchdowns and old faithful Brent Celek nabbing another.
This week, against the Detriot Lions, expect to see heavy doses of DeSean Jackson. The Lions boast the league’s third-best run defense and have surrendered just five rushing touchdowns this season, so LeSean McCoy probably won’t be much of a factor in the game. They do, on the other hand, host a bottom-of-the-barrel passing defense. And with the otherworldly Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, expect this Eagles D to have their tails handed to them. I’m expecting a shootout, which, if the Eagles can manage another timely turnover or two, could wind up in Philly’s favor.
Who’s Batman? The guy who’s here to save your fantasy squad in Week 14: Nick Foles. This one is pretty simple: Detroit is awful defending the pass, but score a lot of points. That means that the Eagles, in order to keep up, will have to score a lot of points too. Sometimes it’s really as simple as that.
Who’s The Joker? The guy who wants to watch your fantasy squad burn in Week 14: Eagles Defense. They’ve been opportunistic, yes, but Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford is on pace for a 5,100 yard, 36 touchdown season. And while he throws interceptions, he also leads a team that’s scored the fourth-most points in the NFL to this point. Don’t get murdered by playing this squad.
Who’s Harvey Dent? The guy who might save or kill your team in Week 14: LeSean McCoy. Let me be clear: McCoy won’t have much success through the running lanes. But the silver lining lies in his pass-catching ability. Right now, he’s got 39 receptions for 435 yards and a score. And while the Lions’ linebackers are great against the run, they aren’t as successful against the short passing offense. I’d bet on McCoy getting enough work through the air to merit starting in fantasy leagues. Plus, are you really going to bench this guy?